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Giving it the once-over
Commissioners inspect newly-acquired Central School site
Central visit
County commissioners Forrest Floyd, left, and Reggie Loper, right, along with County Administrator David Crawley, take a look at the Central School gym. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Effingham County commissioners went room to room Tuesday afternoon, getting an up-close look at what could be the new home for several social services agencies.

Commissioners toured the Central School site, getting a look at what they acquired in a land swap with the board of education.

With the Central School site, the county may be in a position to consolidate more of its offices.

“It gives us flexibility, and it gives us places to move,” said director of community relations Adam Kobek, who led commissioners on the sight-seeing trip. “We’re looking at reducing our overall building footprint.”

The county also could use space at the Central School facility for a long-sought-after records retention center.

The county also has opened space in its annex, moving development services into the GIS suite at the Historic Effingham Courthouse and relocating building inspections to the administrative complex.

With the new sheriff’s office and jail construction under way, the sheriff’s office has been eyeing the annex as a potential temporary home once work there displaces them, according to Kobek.

In its five-year short-term work program, the county has plans to build a new gym at the Effingham County Recreation and Parks office, adjacent to the annex. A new gym would mean removing the annex but having the sheriff’s office there temporarily also could allow the county to move ahead with turning its new property into a social services center.

“It helps the county because we can go ahead with the social services building at the Central site,” Kobek said. “We could move county services in closer proximity to one another.”

There is a current tenant at the site, Head Start, and commissioners are expected to decide whether to extend the organization’s lease through the end of June. It is run by the Savannah-Chatham Head Start program and is for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“We’d like to keep them in Effingham,” Kobek said.

As part of the swap, the school system received land that is primarily wetlands and has been placed in a conservation easement. It is adjacent to the school system’s Lisnacullen tract, which has been set aside as greenspace and as an outdoor education venue.

“It’s a win-win,” county commission Chairman Wendall Kessler said of the land exchange.

But Kobek pointed out there is still some work to do at the site, particularly with configuring bathrooms, and in determining which agencies will go there and when.

“I would like to get a plan so we can engage people we need to so we can adapt the structure, and we can be working with our agencies that may be moving,” he said. “A move like that needs time. I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities it provides. And it’s neat to get another historic structure.”